This piece was written by Mandeep Ladhar, Multiplying Good Think Big Team Member, SIA Alum, and student at UC Berkley.​

When you think of service to others, you might not immediately think about voting, I know I didn’t. My first experience with elections and voting rights was through a dual enrollment Ethnic Studies class in my sophomore year in high school. Oh boy, I cannot believe this was exactly five years ago! My professor was running to be Hayward's Mayor at the time, and I was a recent immigrant with no idea how to get involved in my community. So, I volunteered with Professor Salinas’s campaign to get more involved and meet the people living in and around my neighborhood. I went door to door to talk to residents about the importance of voting—of course this was back when things were normal, and we could interact with people without being worried about worsening the pandemic!

Campaigning opened up my world to my community, the needs of its members, and helped me build relationships with people I wouldn’t otherwise have met. I still remember feeling super pumped to get my SIA team involved in getting out the vote. Over the course of a few months, we grew stronger as a team and formed lasting relationships with the members of our community. As we canvassed door-to-door we had great conversations with a wide-range of individuals, these interactions made my heart smile and I felt happier than I had ever been since moving to the US.

Before I started campaigning, I felt like an outsider, but finally having a reason to interact with the rest of the community, and hear first-hand about their experiences, made me an even better student. I was a lot more interested in my history classes and started to look at school as an opportunity to learn about how to more effectively serve others, instead of simply an exercise in getting the highest grades.

Once I started getting involved, new opportunities opened up for me. The year after getting engaged in the Hayward election, I was selected as my school's Youth Ambassador. As a Youth Ambassador, I spent my time thinking of ways to get more youth involved and make sure that their service stories were being heard all around. To support this, I created the Youth Civic Engagement Awards, which recognized youth for their commitment to excellence in leadership and offered winners scholarships to their preferred higher education institutions. These awards ignited a passion for service in my student body, and many youth started to look for more ways to get involved in their community, which in turn reenergized me. I began to understand how integral each member of the community is to its success.

My passion for service and commitment to the community followed me as I moved from Hayward to attend the University of California, Berkeley. As a new student, I was constantly looking for ways to stay involved and make sure people were registered to vote for the upcoming election. I joined the University of California Advocacy Network (UCAN), where I served as my university's campus leader to work with students across the UC network to advocate against tuition increases through social media campaigns, petitions, and other virtual outreach. In fact, I lobbied in Sacramento with legislative representatives to propose UC Budget increases to support my campus's students.

This experience led me to work harder to make sure people's voices were heard, including in this upcoming election. At my university, my classmates and I have tabled to encourage the student body to vote in the coming election. Although things have since gone virtual, I continue to use my social media as a platform to raise awareness on many issues to influence better policymaking and to encourage all those around me to exercise their right to vote. While I may be unable to vote in this election, there are still actions that I can take to have my voice heard, get connected to my community, and make sure they are heard, too.

For all of you who are in my shoes and are unable to vote, encourage those around you to get involved! This could start by simply sharing your own story and telling others how a particular outcome from the election could genuinely help you, like getting access to healthcare or tuition assistance. It is unfortunate that we have to fight every day to make sure our government hears our voices, but I believe that we can change that! Use your social media, contact your relatives, challenge all the organizations you are involved in to get their constituents engaged, let your friendly neighbors know, and make the last push. I hope by reading this, you're motivated to vote or to continue to spread awareness, keeping in mind to stay safe. Because together, we are all stronger!